Holmes Group Names National/Regional Consultancies of the Year
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Holmes Group Names National/Regional Consultancies of the Year

This year's Consultancy of the Year honorees include Arcay in Africa; akkanto in Benelux; PRP in Eastern Europe; Elan in France; Burson-Marsteller in Germany; Llorente & Cuenca in Iberia; Edelman in Italy; Prime PR in the Nordics; and Blue Rubicon in the U.K.

Paul Holmes

African Consultancy of the Year: Arcay Communications

 

There’s a growing interest in Africa among multinational corporations, many of which have substantially expanded their corporate social responsibility and marketing activities throughout the continent in recent years. Most of those companies turn to public relations firms in South Africa—the most developed market in sub-Saharan Africa, if not the entire continent—to manage those activities on a regional basis. Arcay Communications, established 17 years ago by Robyn De Villiers, is in a perfect position to benefit from that growth, given its extended network of offices in South Africa, its affiliate relationships in 45 African countries—providing local insight and in-market contacts—and longstanding relationships with several international agencies, although it now has an affiliate agreement with international giant Burson-Marsteller, providing pan-African solutions for BM clients.

 

Benelux Consultancy of the Year: akkanto

 

akkanto—until recently known as European Communications Strategies—has been around for 13 years and founder Charles van der Straten Waillet has been active in both public relations and philanthropic activity in the Brussels market and beyond for more than 30 years. Today, the firm is led by a partnership of senior executives that includes managing director Johan Ral, and works across three distinct segments of the Brussels business. Without positioning itself as an EU affairs consultancy, it offers some EU expertise and operates comfortably within the EU context; it also manages public relations activities for companies targeting the Belgian market; and it runs broad international corporate communications programs for both Belgian and multinational corporations and other organizations, working at the CEO and board level. The firm saw revenues increase by about 15 percent in 2008 to around €4 million, and while the first quarter of 2009 was difficult, business has been picking up again in recent months, with employee and change communications, crisis communications and high-level public affairs particularly strong. Clients include Bekaert, the Belgian Post, Heineken, Private Investors for Africa, Spadel, Suez, and Swift, with new business over the past 12 months from the National Lottery, Infrabel (which manages, maintains and develops the railway infrastructure in Belgium) and RIZIV/INAMI (the National Institute for Health & Disability Insurance). The firm was also named the exclusive communication partner of the European Business Summit in June and July 2010.

 

Eastern European Consultancy of the Year: PRP

 

The former Soviet Union can be confusing to anyone who doesn’t know the market well. In the absence of reliable rankings, a potential client needs to examine a firm’s account list, seek the endorsements of other clients, and assess the strength of relationships in western markets. PRP Group passes all three tests with flying colors: clients include Hewlett Packard, Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, and ExxonMobil; they praise the firm’s “outstanding organization” and “best in class logistics”; and PRP is the Russian affiliate of Weber Shandwick, the world’s largest public relations firm. The firm enjoyed growth of about 30 percent last year, with the Russian consumer practice establishing itself as a market leader (managing multidisciplinary brand-building work for ExxonMobil, for example), the CSR practice building on the thought leadership platform provided by its creation of a National CSR Forum, and some growth in the corporate arena, related to the global economic crisis.

 

French Consultancy of the Year: Elan

 

Agence Elan is a new French agency with an impressive pedigree. Founded in January of 2008 by former TBWA/Corporate public relations chief and managing director of Edelman France Marion Darrieutort and led today by chief executive Darrieutort and chairman Jean-Pierre Rousset, a veteran of high-profile in-house communications roles and more recently president and chief executive of the French operations of Burson-Marsteller, the firm has grown quickly despite the difficult economy and with a team of around 30 people is already one of the largest independents in the French market.The firm’s first client was Yahoo!, and Elan built rapidly on the foundation it provided, winning nine of its first 10 new business pitches and building up an impressive list of French and overseas multinational clients that includes L’Oréal Group (for corporate communication); the L’Oréal Corporate Foundation; Moet & Chandon; Electrolux; Areva; KFC; Kellogg’s; Coca-Cola; Toshiba; and Accenture.

 

German Consultancy of the Year: Burson-Marsteller

 

Burson-Marsteller may not be the biggest of the Anglo-Saxon multinationals in Germany, but it has been growing consistently since Karl-Heinz Heuser (formerly with Weber Shandwick) took over as CEO in 2005, and is perhaps unique in representing some of the largest local multinationals—Henkel, Lufthansa, SAP—as well as multinationals like McDonald’s. Best known for its work in corporate communications and crisis management, the firm has added a strong public affairs capability in recent years under the leadership of Marco Hardt in Berlin, working for the FDP in the recent national elections Other interesting work over the past 12 months ranged from issues management for McDonald’s (everything from obesity to tax issues) to support for alternative energy pioneer First Solar.

 

Iberian Consultancy of the Year: Llorente & Cuenca

 

Llorente & Cuenca is not only one of the biggest best independent public relations firms in Spain (it was selected by 10,000 communication, marketing and advertising professionals as the Best Communication Consultancy of the Decadein a poll for El Publicista); it’s also one of a handful of firms that provides comprehensive coverage of the Spanish-speaking world, with offices in Madrid and Barcelona and a network of operations in key cities throughout Latin Americaand since the end of 2008 an office in Beijing. Despite difficult conditions in the Spanish market, L&C posted a fourth consecutive year of impressive growth, and with fee income of more than $20 million in 2008 and 240 employees. Highlights of the past 12 months included support for the 100 Years of L'Oréal celebration in Spain; a communication campaign to explain the European Higher Education Area plan, promoted in Spain by the Ministry of Science and Innovation; a new internal communication model for Telefónica operations in Latin America based on a Web 2.0 model; and advice on the mergers of Spanish banks Caja Duero and Caja España, and Caixa Catalunya with another institution.

 

Italian Consultancy of the Year: Edelman

 

Edelman derives more of its EMEA region revenue—around €5.4 million, or slightly more than 10 percent—from Italy than most of its competitors, and has established itself as a significant, top five agency in the market, with strength in both corporate and consumer. Managing director Fiorella Passoni has been with the firm since 1991 and has been general manager since 2001, providing impressive stability at the top of the operation, which counts among its clients big names such as Nestlé, Microsoft, Luigi Lavazza, Roche, P&G, and Danone. The firm grew by close to 10 percent last year despite a difficult environment, with new business from Lottomatica, Roche, Mercedes, Mediobanca, and Old Mutual.

 

Nordic Consultancy of the Year: Prime PR

 

The first of two repeat winners among our geographic consultancies, Prime PR entered its 10th year in 2008 with fee income in excess of €10 million and close to 100 employees, enough to make it one of the two or three largest public relations firms in the Nordic market, and a growing reputation beyond the consumer arena where it made its name as it has grown its corporate and public affairs business as well as its consulting and analysis abilities. Like many firms, it lost some momentum last year, but was able to keep fee income growing—by a modest 3 percent—and more important to continue doing good work for clients and innovating. A new suite of communication management services is designed to help organizational leaders with all aspects of their corporate communications, from planning to purchasing to evaluation. The firm also developed a new approach to public affairs; a “100 Days” communications strategy tool for CEOs; and new social media tools, including blogger relations capabilities. Clients include Shell, Electrolux, Save the Children, McDonald’s and Skoda, and the firm has won awards over the past 12 months for several of those companies as well as for its work with adidas, SCA/Libresse, Halbop, the Swedish Cancer Society and Alecta.

 

U.K. Consultancy of the Year: Blue Rubicon

 

For the second year in a row, Blue Rubicon takes top honors among U.K. consultancies. “Blue Rubicon is the McKinsey of reputation management,” says the chairman of one of the firm’s largest clients. That may be a tad hyperbolic in terms of the firm’s size and heritage—it’s a decade-old firm with fee income of £8.2 million last year, not a global powerhouse—but in terms of the quality of Blue Rubicon’s thinking and its work, it’s an assessment that captures founder Fraser Hardie’s ambitions and suggests that the firm has made impressive progress toward achieving them. Fee income was up by a staggering 39 percent in 2008, and the firm anticipated 25 percent growth in 2009, on track to hit £10 million in fee income. New business came from big names such as Diageo, O2, eBay, Barclays, BUPA, Waitrose, Sport England and Chevron, joining an existing roster of blue chip corporations and global brands including British Gas, Shell, BHP Billiton, McDonald’s, Cadbury, GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever.

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